Matt Crowley/The AS Review

An unusual rash of crime and violence in the first quarter of Western’s 2010-2011 school year has turned the “city of subdued excitement” into what many students now refer to as “Sketch-ingham.”

While the disappearance and subsequent discovery of the body of Western student Dwight Clark sent waves of fear and paranoia across campus in early October, only to settle weeks later when reports surfaced that no foul play was involved in Clark’s death, other reports of crime have kept students on their toes. Recent reports of armed robberies on the southern part of campus, along with other cases of both violent and non-violent crimes, have forced Western students and other Bellingham residents to stay on the lookout.

“I think it’s definitely affected the mood around town,” said sophomore Chloe Turner. “A lot of people, including me, came here because Bellingham is such a nice, calm place and now we’ve all become paranoid.”

The two armed robberies that occurred on Monday, Nov. 8 have arguably provided the lion’s share of the fear that now exists on campus. But according to some students, the main reason for concern was not the robberies themselves, but when they took place.

“We’ve had robberies before but what was so weird about the ones on the south side was that they happened in the middle of the day,” said senior Kyle Anderson. “I can’t speak for everyone, but getting mugged isn’t exactly on my mind when the sun’s out.”

The two incidents took place at 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. around the neighborhood that encompasses Happy Valley Elementary School.

Other Bellingham residents agree, noting that while crime is nothing new to the town, the nature of the acts is fueling the concern.

“In an area with so many students, it’s very disturbing,” said long-time Bellingham resident Jan Remler, referring to south campus. “I don’t think people want to be walking around scared, and they shouldn’t. This is Bellingham. It’s not exactly something we’re known for.”

It is hard to tell whether we should be altering the way we go about our days or to just leave things be and remember that violence and crime is an unfortunate truth, even in a normally quiet and peaceful place like Bellingham. According to the Department of Public Safety and University Police, it doesn’t take much to help ensure your safety and the safety of others around you.

Making sure your door is locked and not walking alone at night may seem like second nature, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t significant measures. According to UP, walking with a purpose and projecting an “assertive and business-like image” can be important in deterring would-be attackers, especially if you are placed in a situation where walking alone is your only option.

As for theft, it’s important to always lock your doors and windows when leaving your residence, and to remember not to leave valuables unattended, even in places like the library.

Ultimately, one of the most important things you can do to keep you and those around you safe is to be on the lookout for any suspicious activity. UP can be contacted by dialing 911 off campus or extension 3911 on campus.
Whether or not you are disturbed by the recent events here in Bellingham, this tumultuous first quarter has certainly reminded all of us of the importance of safety.